Though we often try to ignore it, the fact is that nobody lives forever. That’s why it’s essential to plan a last will and testament while you’re still alive. Whether you die tomorrow or decades from now, you can be assured that your assets and affairs are allocated to your liking by designing a will. But why do you need one, and how much does it cost to write a will?
Let’s start with the “Why?” question. A will outlines exactly where you want your money to go, who you want to inherit your assets, and even what kind of funeral or cremation you receive. All of this is of utmost importance, especially if you have children to protect or valuable assets. It’s also helpful if you want to take the burden off your kids so they don’t have additional worries after you die.
However, this critical task comes at a price: Designing a will can be surprisingly expensive.
So what is the true cost of planning your last will and testament? And what is the best course of action if you are constrained by a budget? Keep reading.
Hire a Lawyer
If you have average or above-average wealth, and more than one potential heir, you’ll probably have to hire a lawyer to draft your will. An estate lawyer can ensure that all of your property is allocated to your liking. Additionally, a lawyer can help sort out affairs, like custody of your children or ownership of a business. These legal affairs are often complex, which makes an estate lawyer an essential resource.
Of course, a good lawyer will cost you. According to Stephanie Curose, a lawyer and contributor to LegalZoom, lawyers typically charge a minimum of between $150 and $600 as a flat rate to write your will. The average flat rate cost is about $375.
“This fee generally covers a basic draft and could increase if any issues or complications arise,” Curose explains. “Attorneys may also charge extra for services such as power of attorney and other estate-planning documents.” Indeed, the rate will go up in relation to the complexity of the estate. Investopedia warns that the fee could hit as much as $1,000 “in advanced situations.”
Do It Yourself
It is undoubtedly less expensive to write a will yourself and there are many will templates to be found online. These templates can cost as little as $10, though such models are most suitable for simplistic, straightforward wills. That’s to say, if you have few assets, no children and a fairly direct bequeathing plan, a DIY will is probably appropriate. But the more complicated your financial situation, the less helpful a DIY template will be.
“The benefit of using a template is that it meets state guidelines and costs a fraction of what an attorney might charge,” writes Curose. “However, templates are often very generic and so may not conform to your particular situation.” For this reason, you may still need to contact a lawyer for legal advice.
DIY with Legal Counsel
This hybrid model may also help you save money, while tying any loose ends that your DIY will leaves open. That’s because you’ll still be doing most of the heavy lifting for the initial writing, but a lawyer will charge an hourly rate to review your will and fix any areas of concern. Hourly rates can vary from $100 on the low end, to $400+ for an esteemed lawyer in a major city.
Still, paying a lawyer to review your will for an hour or two may cost less than the flat rate you’d pay them to write the entire will. Ultimately, you’ll have to contact a local attorney and inquire about different pricing options to determine whether it’s more cost effective to write the will yourself or have the lawyer cover the entire process.
Whichever route you choose, don’t allow the cost or the complexity to stop you from leaving behind a will. This document can save headaches, not to mention heartaches, for your loved ones after you’re gone. You’ll also have the peace of mind that your assets end up in the right hands.